Feeds

Is it true my body is not entirely alive?

The dead bits that keep us kicking

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

So you think you’re all alive? Think again. As strange as it may seem, the human body is not entirely "alive". A small part of us is not alive, never has been, and never will be. Ironically, what's not alive is vital to what is.

Ninety-six per cent of the human body is alive. This part is composed of living, "organic elements" present in many different forms. DNA, RNA proteins, lipids, and sugars are all composed of primarily oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. In addition, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other small molecules are involved in these elements. The proportions are oxygen (65 per cent), carbon (18.5 per cent), hydrogen (9.5 per cent), and nitrogen (3.2 per cent).

The remaining 3.8 per cent of the human body is technically composed of non-living, "non-organic elements" in the form of salts. Although their quantities are fairly miniscule, they are absolutely critical for the maintenance of the body's structure and smooth working order. For example, calcium is a major component of bones and teeth. Potassium keeps the heart beating evenly and regularly. Iron is necessary for the movement of oxygen by red blood cells.

The breakdown of this 3.8 per cent consists of calcium (1.5 per cent), phosphorus (1.0 per cent), potassium (0.4 per cent), sulphur (0.3 percent), chlorine (0.2 per cent), sodium (0.2 per cent), iodine (0.1 per cent), iron (0.1 per cent), and magnesium (0.1 per cent). The remaining 0.5 per cent is composed of trace elements, including chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, tin, vanadium, and zinc.

Some of these trace elements are part of critical body enzymes. Without these enzymes we’d die and all of our body wouldn't be alive.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.